LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Charlie Strong didn't have just a whole lot to hold out for his University of Louisville football team as motivation heading into its season finale at Cincinnati.
The Cardinals already were out of Bowl Championship Series contention. The chances of them not being invited to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando were slim, even in the event of a loss. But Strong had one card he knew would get his players' attention.
The Miami card. He told his team that if it played well, it could go to the Russell Athletic Bowl, and, "you never know, we could wind up playing Miami."
Whatever Strong said, it worked. The Cards beat Cincinnati in overtime, and on Sunday they got their wish -- a matchup against Miami in Orlando on Dec. 28.
"This was the game they wanted to play," Strong said of his players. "This was an opponent they wanted."
Now the Cards, 29 of whom hail from the Miami area, will try to parlay that enthusiasm into a third bowl victory in four tries under Strong.
"It's a special game from both sides," Strong said. "The (players) all know each other. ... It's great for us because we recruit that area."
Five quick thoughts on the matchup:
1. The Cardinals have won just one meeting in 12 tries against Miami, but only two have come in recent years since the Cardinals regularly began going to bowl games. The one victory came in the last meeting, a 31-7 win in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2006. U of L, in many ways, patterned itself after Miami in trying to build a football program in an urban setting.
2. The programs have the same Godfather. Both were considering abandoning Division I-A football when Howard Schnellenberger saved them. He took Miami to the national championship level, then took Louisville to a Fiesta Bowl title. The retired coach ought to have a place of honor at the game. Expect the bowl to make it happen. One way to generate interest would be to present Schnellenberger with some kind of honor at halftime. A nice place to start: Adopt the new logo in the photo above.
3. Another coach with ties to both schools might have a less comfortable seat. Clint Hurtt was recruiting coordinator at Miami during several of the years for which the school received sanctions recently. He's now the defensive line coach for U of L, where he is working under an NCAA show-cause order, with a number of job restrictions that the school agreed to with the NCAA. Had Louisville played Duke in the postseason, Hurtt would've navigated the bowl with little notice. Against Miami, however, will be a different story.
4. Iconic plays. In the history of the series, there are two for U of L. The first -- Mario Urrutia's stiffarm. If you're a U of L fan, you don't need any description. For everyone else, Urrutia delivered a stiffarm during a TD catch that pretty well signaled that U of L had turned the corner not only on beating Miami, but on becoming more of a national player, in 2006. The other is less pleasant for U of L fans. It's the dropped interception by Kerry Rhodes that probably cost the Cardinals a BCS bowl trip in a 41-38 loss in 2004. Honorable mention: Devin Hester's 78-yard punt return touchdown that gave Miami the lead in that game.
5. Back in September of 2012, I put together a U of L All-Florida team for WDRB's College Football Notebook. Maybe it's time to dust that off. Any changes, additions or subtractions? It is a formidable group, and illustrates just how much that state has meant to the program. The current U of L team has 39 Florida players, including 23 from the Miami area alone.
Offense QB: Teddy Bridgewater, Miami RB: Kolby Smith, Tallahassee RB: Bilal Powell, Lakeland WR: Arnold Jackson, Jacksonville WR: Ernest Givens, St. Petersburg WR: J.R. Russell, Tampa TE: Gary Barnidge, Middleburg OL: Jason Spitz, Jacksonville OL: Bruce Armstrong, Miami OL: John Miller, Miami OL: Danny Barlowe, Tallahassee
Defense DE: Elvis Dumervil, Miami DE: Marcus Jones, Alachua DT: Ted Washington, Tampa DT: Jim Hanna, West Palm Beach LB: Alan Campos, Miami LB: Tyrus McCloud, Fort Lauderdale LB: Abe Brown, Sarasota S: Curry Burns, Miami S: Calvin Pryor, Port St. Joe CB: William Gay, Tallahassee CB: Johnny Patrick, Deland